Thursday, October 20, 2016


It has been said you can never have enough staging. No truer words were ever spoken if you have operating sessions.

I started a never ending project to increase my staging in order to lengthen my coal drag, tank sweeper, and now the new Millville sand hog. It would have been nice to be able to add 2 more tracks but I can only do that by making it impossible for operators to get to Westville from Woodbury (getting past the narrowest point in the aisle). So I did the next best thing and lengthened the 3 existing staging tracks to squeeze in another 21 car capacity.

Sounds simple doesn't it? Well I did it but it required an S curve of about 5" radius. Ordered some more track rerailers and track bumpers. When they came in I suddenly realized I could dump cars off the layout on the under-layout side in the extended portion. So I cut (and painted) some thin wood to solve that problem but then had to screw them in through a tangle of under-layout track wires.

Even though the sharp radius didn't add inter-track car swiping I failed to test the closest track and found that 50' cars were swiping the corner of the aisle side track guards (1x4). Out came a jigsaw to remedy the problem and once I rerailed about every car on the 3 tracks of staging everything is now copacetic.

I found an area to add a staging track on the other end of the line. It will be a difficult (inaccessible) install. But it needs to wait for a new last minute project. I got an offer to do a magazine cover shot IF I could improve on the quality of a few shots I submitted. Unfortunately I may have reached the limits of what I can do with my 8 meg point and shoot camera so I enlisted a friend, who although an amateur photographer, has a good SLR and a lot of lenses. He has never taken model train pictures before so I am waiting with bated breath to see the results. (He must have taken 200-300 shots!) Stay tuned!

Friday, October 14, 2016

N Scale Magazine - The PRSL - the Millville & Penns Grove Branches

My second article (in a series of 3) was published in the Nov/Dec issue of N Scale Magazine.

This article covers my home layout and it's attempt to cover the section of the Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines from Camden to Woodbury and its off-layout extensions to both Millville/Vineland and Penns Grove/Deepwater.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Birthday Vacation - Sight & Sound Theater and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Since I was passing into my next decade of life, my wife and I took a birthday trip out to Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster to see the Sampson production. And since it was my birthday, I got a major say on the trip itinerary:
.          Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (PRR T-shirt),
.          Strasburg Railroad,
.          3 railroad gift stores, 
.          and a hobby shop (X-Acto blades)!

We will start with the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, one of my favorite places.

Tons of engines:

Some rusting away in the yard:

N5C Cabin 477947:

Found out the Reading had 2 round end observation cars and that they ran their premier passenger train with one on each end so the train did not need to be turned at the terminal:

They also had 2 great model railroads and I got to have a friendly chat with Bill, one of the model railroad volunteers:

Moving to the Strasburg Railroad: They were running a 2-10-0 decapod they got from the Great Western RR in Colorado:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Operating Session #7 (September 17, 2016)

The 7th Operating Session is in the books. We forgot everything we knew over the summer and stumbled into the roundhouse at the end. Great friends make great times and it was a joy to see everyone again. 
(Curly, Larry & Moe) Larry, Mario, Niel, Gene, and Bob hard at work. 
Tim couldn’t make it so Larry filled in for him. We also had a guest observer, Niel, who wanted to learn about operations. Most of the session went very well but this time around we seemed to have periods where one crew (Mario/Larry) or the other (Bob/Gene) went un-busy. I’ll have to work on that (but it can be difficult due to the unknown requirements of freight orders generated for the day’s runs).

Gene looking for an engine.
Mario & Larry trying to uncouple cars behind the refinery.
Who says yard work can't be fun? This is the smaller South Woodbury Yard.
Larry watching WY33, the Millville local, heading south out of Woodbury.
Post Mortem: The Red Oak tower crew did well with the waybills. The only discrepancy I could find with them was 4 waybills in the Westville card holder instead of the cardholder in North Woodbury.
The Brown crew (Camden Pavonia Yard) left me totally baffled. Only one string of cars was left on the correct track and I can’t tell if the cars on the Millville local track belong there or on the Millville terminal track. They are fortunate that I have run out of demerits to give them.  :-)

My Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines layout is based in the early 1950s but we have been running a 1974 freight schedule because that was all I had found at the time. Recently I became aware of a 1954 freight schedule and was puzzled by an extra freight to Millville (now there were 3) which I didn’t understand.

The old heads on the PRSL Historical Society informed me the train was referred to as the “sand hog” and did no local switching since it was about 100 cars long. So now I have to add another train to my schedule. As a kid, I was always about a block away the tracks and remembered all the 50’ gons loaded with sand. I could never figure out why anyone needed sand and why you would want to move it (and what kept it from blowing out of the cars?). But this was the post WWII era and construction was booming with all the returning servicemen starting families and building homes. Concrete (sand+) was also needed in the massive road constructions following the war and the glass industry was booming. So off to eBay to add to my available gondolas (the front 4 are recent additions).

Larry came bearing gifts. The 5 leftmost sand loads are the work of his hands (the 2 rightmost were Hay Brothers loads I already had). The model “sand hog” is well underway.

Monday, September 5, 2016

PRSLHS III North Woodbury Signal

For a reason beyond my comprehension the multi tracks from both Woodbury and Westville reduce to a single track for a short distance in North Woodbury. At least it gave the tower operators something to do!

Climbing again - the signal in north Woodbury:

View from the signal (I have no idea what the shack is for):
After Woodbury the Millville branch dropped from two tracks to one sometime in the later part of the 1950s. The boring view in Woodbury Heights:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

PRSLHS II - South Westville & North Woodbury Industries

Some of the industries along the line, but first we start with friend Bruce measuring what I think is some kind of railroad communications box. The spur to the left leads into the Texaco refining complex.

Mid Atlantic lumber company just off Olive Street in the southern part of Westville:

Woodbury Fuel and Oil in the northern part of Woodbury:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines Historical Society

In honor of being added as a link in the member's page of the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines website I will spend the next couple of blog posts showing B&W pictures I took in 1960. I have loved trains as long as I can remember and a Sunday School teacher (Ed Evans) further fueled that interest. In 1960 a friend and I decided to walk the tracks between my hometown (Woodbury Heights) and his (Westville). We were 13 and took pictures and notes. Here is the first batch.

We found this work equipment in Gloucester / Bellmawr and that is me illegally climbing all over it.

I must have liked to climb since I am now on a box car stored on the PRSL spurs just shy of Big Timber Creek. The building in the background used to be a power plant for the electrified commuter service that ran from Camden to Glassboro and beyond. The electric service ceased in 1948 but the power plant shut down in 1926 (the electric company provided cheaper power). The straight ahead spur used to feed coal to the power plant and the spur to the left used to go to a Buzby Bros. cement mixing plant.

This was the last Westville station (has been torn down). It was a small brick station that replaced a much larger station when a crossover road needed to be built in the area. In addition to the original station there was a passenger shelter on the other side of the tracks and a small freight house and spur behing the original station on the right. As you can see the middle track has already been removed and the area would be single tracked down the road.

This is the Baldwin Road Switcher that darn near ran over us. We were resting, sitting on a rail and happened to get up when this thing came barreling past us at high speed with no warning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sun, Beaches, and Bathing Suits

or Resorts, Real Estate and Money

The September / October issue of N Scale Magazine has been shipped. It contains the first of three articles I submitted for publication. This one is a short history of the Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines, southern New Jersey's only large railroad from its shotgun marriage in 1933 to its absorption into Conrail in 1976.

The first article is a lead in to the coverage of my 1950s PRSL model railroad in the Novemeber / December issue. That will be followed by an article outlining the steps necessary to set up operations sessions. Enjoy! ($6.75 at your local hobby shop or directly from

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Progress at What Price?

Progress always seems to have a price on my layout. There were 2 areas of track work that have been giving me migraines. One has severe accessibility issues and I will need to wait until I can get a second pair of hands to fix it. The other was just inconvenient to reach but I could handle on my own. (Or so I thought) In one back corner I had a curve, on a grade, that would cause derailments on a long hopper trains with increasing frequency. (Micro-Train 2 bay hoppers are too light to start with and the older ones with pizza cutter wheels were even more touchy.)

Determined to put an end to this, I carefully removed the power plant and planned to remove a section of flex track to fix it. Naturally my "spasticity" exceeded my prepared work area and the Buzby Bros. cement mixing plant experienced an earthquake (floor drop) destroying two of the storage bins. Since the damage includes brass railings, the plant production will be crippled until I can secure talent (way beyond mine) to fix it. Oh well, progress always comes at a price on the PRSL!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Quiet Warrior

We just lost my father-in-law at the age of 92. He broke the big bone in his leg just trying to get up from his chair. Due to a deteriorating heart condition surgery was too big of a risk. Congestive heart failure began to affect his breathing and he passed July 7th surrounded by his family.

It was a privilege to know the man. He was a quiet, unassuming, solid, hard working man who would do anything for anyone in need. In his last lucid moments he was pleading that someone would continue his efforts to reach an unsaved family member because he desperately wanted to see the whole extended family together on Heaven’s shores.

The world is a sadder place without his smile, encouragement, and servant’s heart.

Roderick D. Kemmerer, 92, of Whitehall, died Thursday, July 7, 2016 at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest. He was the husband of Irene E. (Mehrkam) Kemmerer to whom he was married 68 years last June 6. Born in Cementon, November 22, 1923, Roderick was the son of the late Harry W. and Irene E. (Semmel) Kemmerer. He faithfully and honorably served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was employed as a cable splicer at the former Bell Telephone, in Bethlehem, for 42 years before retiring in 1989. Roderick was a member of the First Baptist Church of Allentown where he formerly served as a Trustee. Survivors: In addition to his loving wife, Irene; children, Barbara A. Balassaitis and her husband, Richard of Washington Township, NJ, Randy K. Kemmerer and his wife, Karen of Mount Laurel, NJ, Susan B. Void of Whitehall; brother, Nathaniel P. Kemmerer of Fayetteville, GA; grandchildren, Heather, Brad, Kevin, Christy, Courtney, Caroline, Jeremy, and Jason; fourteen great grandchildren; predeceased by a brother, Atwood R. Kemmerer. Services: Funeral services will be held 11:00 am. Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at the First Baptist Church of Allentown, 1808 North 19th Street, Allentown with the Rev. Joseph R. Velarde officiating. Family and friends may pay their respects from 9:30 - 11:00 am. Tuesday in the church. Interment with military honors will follow the service at Union Church Cemetery, Neffs. The Heintzelman Funeral Home, Inc., in Schnecksville is in charge of arrangements. Online expressions of sympathy may be recorded at Contributions: In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church of Allentown c/o the funeral home, P.O. Box # 196, Schnecksville, PA 18078-01976. - See more at: